Google Minimizes Number of "Potentially Harmful Apps" on Play Store

Apps and Software

Google is now making a crackdown on so-called apps that have potential dangers that were put in their Google Play Store / Photo by: Ardo191 via Wikimedia Commons


Google Inc. has revealed that its escalating crackdown on what is called "potentially harmful apps," or PHAs, has been paying off as less than half a percent of all app downloads from its Play Store to date have been classified as such.

The tech giant made the declaration in its newly released year in review of its Android security efforts, which looked back on 2018—a year in which Google celebrated its 10th anniversary since launching the first commercial Android device.

As the search leader pats itself on the back for what seems to be an impressive milestone, leading online tech site BGR puts "some context and caveat" on Google's analysis.

The BGR said 0.04 percent of PHAs recorded in 2018 was actually higher than that of 2017, which saw a reading of 0.02 percent. The tech news site stated that the increase was because of the inclusion of "click fraud" as a PHA category in the past year. Click fraud was only seen as a violation of the Google Play policy before it became a PHA category.

However, if the instances of click frauds were omitted from the official statistics, Google would then say the figures of PHAs actually dropped by 31 percent from 2017 to 2018, BGR explained.

It added that another point of consideration is that although 0.04 percent doesn't seem like a significant percentage, it would still work out to nearly 31 million PHAs if one were to take Sensor Tower's—an organic user acquisition service—estimate of Android app downloads for 2018 (which is almost 76 billion).

Among those downloaded apps, click fraud apps were found to account for 55 percent of total installs in the past. Google's report said such apps often include "desirable features" like gaming or music, while the applications are operating click fraud in the background.

"Many of the major apps that we removed from Google Play in 2018 because of embedded click fraud code were flashlight, music player, or game apps," the report explained. It added, "Click fraud developers build their code into apps that users tend to use daily and keep installed on their devices."